The Practice of Altar Making
When we have no time, no place for our sacred selves, an antidote may be to build an altar at home. By focusing on a little corner or shelf or alcove, we can open up to creating more of that space for the sacred. Building an altar also helps in manifesting our intentions for connecting more deeply to our ancestors, the elements, and helping spirits that can make our life’s journey lighten up. Bringing beauty in attracts helping spirits and acknowledges the soul.
The elements are the building blocks of manifestation; when we honour them on our altars, balance ourselves more easily. Indigenous peoples in the Americas considered earth, air, fire and water to be the elements; spirit was already in all things but many traditions saw it as a 5th element. You can choose to represent each element or to adopt a Chinese or an African view and acknowledge the elements in whatever system you choose, as that will help keep you balanced, especially if you try one system and keep with it long enough to notice any positive changes. Each indigenous culture has its own way of perceiving the elements and it is probably best to work in the one where you find yourself most comfortable.
Earth can be represented by rocks, crystals, soil for instance. Air can be feathers and smudge for the smoke it makes. Fire can be candles or if it not safe, an electric one, or perhaps a Twylight. Water can be from your tap, from holy wells, from rivers, springs, the ocean whatever feels right for you to bring into your space. Even tarot has the elements in its suits and if you need a portable altar, cards can be drawn from each suit and laid over a piece of cloth.
If you have a favourite power animal, a planet, a goddess, a guide, a teacher, a tree, a deceased grandparent whose kind spirit you feel close by, then having a figure or photo of that being can augment the power of your intentions and bring blessings into your life.
An altar cloth does not have to be hand made as some of them are in the photos, but a piece of cloth creates the foundation or poetic inspiration for the altar and defines the space.
As you see in the pictures, the practice of keeping an altar can extend to a gathering of like minded people and altars can be temporary for the season, the celebration or ceremony, or be kept as a shrine over long term. As long as you pay attention to your altar and even change it with new flowers or objects it will keep the energy active and moving for the prayers and intentions that you are co-creating with heaven and earth. An altar integrates both realms.
If you wish to move outdoors with your altars, then that is another way to connect with the elements, to express your devotion and to use the energies appropriately in grounding your intentions.
Enjoy the process and notice what difference it makes for you to put attention on what is keeping you balanced and supported in creating harmony for your life in the future.